Tue 4 Aug 2009
there is always a last day.
tomorrow, when i go back to work, i worry that my couch is going to miss me. for seventeen months now i’ve lain here in a troll-like mockery of fetal position, curled on my left hip and elbow, peck-peck-pecking at the computer.
well, not when the kids were AWAKE. much. but still. whenever baby wrangling duties subsided into the glorious quiet of naps, this left-hand corner of the corner of the couch has been my lair, my retreat, a spaceship that’s floated me far and wide in the midst of a tethered life; Major Tom in the ass-groovy comfort of my khaki corduroyed personal tin can.
tomorrow i blow back through the atmosphere to the professional world. i hope i don’t burn up trying to actually sit up all day. i haven’t spent eight hours in a chair since March of last year. i suspect by midday they’ll find me flopped over my desk like an overcooked noodle, legs helplessly flapping in their search for pillows to twine around.
i never quite recovered from bedrest. or rather, staring down this transition back to work, i see how i’ve failed to recover from the past four-and-a-half years.
August 4th was Finn’s due date. it is his grandmother’s birthday. he would’ve been a Leo, a Rooster in the Chinese zodiac. these futures i once invested in so unsuspectingly are still traced on the lens through which i see this month, casting shadows that never made it into the picture. in the photo album marked ‘alternate universe’, there’s a boy four years old, a little brown haired kid with a summertime birthday party, hat cocked to one side and skipping. he looks like his father.
i can neither not see that album – ignore it completely – nor ever fully bring it into focus. it is not real, and i dare not pine for what could’ve been, only nod as the pictures float by. i am afraid to pine, for fear all i do have will be snatched away.
that fear is mostly normal, and the function it serves is likely healthy. but the shakiness it underscores is me, quivering here on the couch, afraid to get up and move forward.
i go back to work tomorrow. for four-and-a-half years, thanks to the uncertainties of contract work and bedrest and four fraught pregnancies, envisioning my life more than a few weeks or months at a time has been a fantasy. my stints at home with the kids have been marked by job searches, by “maybe we could do this but i might be back at work by then,” by frantic contracting. conversely, any work i’ve done has been yoked to – and sometimes dropped for – the internal clock of fertility and the push to create this family, hell or high water.
i am done with babies. there will be no more bedrest, no more colicky nights, no more plastic pee sticks, no more long months ruled by the nap schedule. starting tomorrow, this period of my life is behind me. but i do not really know what’s ahead; have not forged much of a path in that regard. so going back to work – even only for another contract position – feels daunting, a sea change, because it marks the end of the only way of life i’ve known for so long i can’t remember how it felt to be different.
so on the last day before this last day, i cut off all my hair.
i’ve done it before. in university, a few times, and when i lived in the concrete winter grayness of Vancouver, and once in Malaysia when the stylist must’ve mistaken me for a Sinead O’Connor wannabe and shaved me nearly bald. each time, i was lost in transition, feeling pulled along and pulled apart by conflicting tides and my own lack of direction.
when i used to teach young adults struggling with issues of powerlessness and lack of agency, i watched the girls, particularly, for sudden, shocking haircuts. something is going on under the surface there, i’d say to my fellow teachers. watch. she’s got change on her hands. this is what she can do to exert her power, exert her self. and i would get in beside whoever that girl was and probe, gently, trying to unearth the seismic shifts that led to the shearing. they were almost always there for the asking.
we mark ourselves, we humans. when things get too tangled, too overwhelming, we cut. if we are lucky, it is only hair.
i am happy with yesterday’s haircut. i saved the ponytails, all ten inches of them, and will mail them off to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths this afternoon. they make wigs for cancer patients, so my scrawny little tails, i hope, will help someone out there feel a bit better about a terrifying situation they have little control over.
but getting rid of them has already helped me. it marks this threshhold, this fresh start, on the outside, so that on the inside i can spend this last day canoodling mindlessly with my beloved couch, believing that it – and those two little kids i love and agonize over – will still be here when i get home from work tomorrow.